Please note as from 1st December 2011 all our Welfare Reform information has been moved onto our new website dedicated to keeping you up to date with Welfare Reform - www.ucnotes.co.uk. Just login with the same username and password as you did for hbnotes.
In June 2010 the Government set out proposals for reforms to the benefit system, including to Housing Benefit. Further reforms were announced in the October 2010 Spending Review.
On February 17th David Cameron presented the Welfare Reform Bill to parliament: click here for a transcript of his speech. The bill received Royal Assent on 8th March 2012. We have produced a summary of the Bill on our ucnotes site which you might find useful.
We have also produced a Welfare Reform Timetable last updated July 2012 which includes all the Welfare Reform proposals.
Most of the changes are intended to cut the benefit budget and many will mean drastic changes to claimants' circumstances, placing them in poverty. Some will lose their homes; some will be forced to move to cheaper areas away from centres of employment making it harder to find work and more expensive to get to work. The social housing sector will come under increased pressure.
Don't forget about our popular 'Welfare Reform for Housing Workers' training course that we can run in-house for you to ensure you and your colleagues are up to date with what's changing, when, the impact and ideas for helping your tenants. Click here for details of our prices and other training courses
We are concerned about these effects and believe that you may also be concerned: click here to find out how you can have your say via a number of campaigns and consultations.
Below are the main elements being proposed - click on the links which will take you to our ucnotes site to find out more about the individual issues.
Local Housing Allowance
Changes from April 2011 that mean less LHA payable to many, although existing claimants given some transitional protection.
Large increases from April 2011 and then above inflation increases until 2014, placing many tenants into financial hardship.
Reductions for social tenants underoccupying their property
From April 2013, with an estimated average loss in HB of £13/week for those affected.
From April 2013 will mean many families will have their HB award reduced.
Council Tax Benefit
To be abolished and replaced by local discount scheme from April 2013.
Changes from April 2011 mean reduced awards for many.
Incapacity Benefit / Employment and Support Allowance
The reassessment of Incapacity Benefit and Income Support (through ill health) claimants to se if they can be awarded ESA instead has left many confused and with a sudden drop in income.
Planned to start in October 2013 will see a radical reform of the means tested benefits and may mean the end to HB. Huge implications for claimants and social housing providers.
Disability Living Allowance
For adult claimants (ie age 16 or over) to be replaced by a Personal Independance Payment with the aim to reduce the budget by 1.4 billion.
Parts of the social fund to be abolished and replaced by local schemes
Other changes include:
Social Landlords are to have their funding for new build reduced by 60%.
This will mean less new social housing available and will put pressure on social landlords' resources. It could mean social landlords taking up the new opportunity to charge rents at up to 80% of market rent levels.
Employment and Support Allowance
From 2012, contributory ESA will be limited to one year for those on the work-related component. Eligible claimants will be able to continue on income-related ESA if their household income is low enough. And the 'incapable of work in youth' route to claiming contributory ESA is set to end.
Disability Living Allowance
From April 2011 people with a severe visual impairment will be entitled to the higher rate mobility component - click here for RNIB factsheet with more details. And from April 2013 new claims will be for Personal Independence Payment, with current DLA claimants being gradually re-assessed to see if they qualify. Note this only applies to people aged 16 to 64.
Supporting People Subsidy
The budget that authorities receive for this will be reduced by 11.5%, and loss of ring-fencing has led to fears that services will be cut as authorities change priorities for allocating resources.
Educational Maintenance Allowance
In 2010 the government announced that they were scrapping EMA in England with no new claims since January 2011. (EMA continues in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). It was expected that all existing EMA payments would stop at the end of the academic year, but the government have given a partial reprieve for some students already getting EMA, as follows:
Those who started courses during the 2009/10 academic year will now continue getting the same payments until the end of the 2011/12 academic year.
And students who started courses September 2011 and currently qualify for £30 a week receive continuing support of £20 a week for the 2011/12 academic year.
EMA is to be replaced by a "16-19 Bursary scheme" administered by schools and colleges whereby £1,200 a year will be given to 12,000 teenagers with the greatest needs, such as pupils in care, care leavers and severely disabled. Those who do not fit into one of these categories can apply to the school or college for a "Discretionary Learning Support Fund": the college/school determines whether and how much will be payable.
Adult Learning Grant (for students on courses below higher education, aged 19+) is also abolished and from September 2011 these students will also have to apply for the Discretionary Learning Support Fund.
The amount is frozen for 3 years from April 2011. And from January 2013 families with earnings over £50,000 will have extra tax to pay, equivalent to the Child benefit. (Partial payments between £50,000 and £60,000. This has been heavily criticised as while a couple both earning just under the limit will escape, a single parent just over the limit will lose out.
The maximum amount of Savings Credit will be frozen for 4 years beginning 2011.